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Noted: City grades fire response 

City releases Waldo review

In a 34-page initial after-action report on the Waldo Canyon Fire released Tuesday, the city of Colorado Springs outlines what went right and what could have gone better in the fire that swept into the city June 26, killing two people and destroying 345 homes. Among the topics covered: communications, planning, preparedness, logistics, responder safety, emergency public safety and security, evacuation, and public information.

As for the short-notice evacuation of Mountain Shadows, which triggered traffic jams as the fire approached, the city report says evacuation boundaries "were not always clear." One recommendation calls for first responders to "have immediate access to maps and decisions made regarding evacuations." Another: "Develop pre-scripted messages for evacuation and provide more detail in the messages."

In conclusion, the report calls the fire "a historic incident of epic proportions that taxed every aspect" of city response personnel.

The city pledges to continue analyzing the fire and to "work toward implementing the recommendations" outlined in the report. The full report is expected in the first quarter of 2013. — PZ

Early voting under way

Through Nov. 2, you can vote early at four El Paso County Clerk and Recorder locations: the Citizens Service Center, 1675 Garden of the Gods Road; 5650 Industrial Place; Chapel Hills Mall, #350; and the Citadel Mall, southwest entrance, #2308.

Hours will be 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., weekdays at the CSC and Powers offices, and 10 a.m. to 7 p.m., including Saturdays, at the malls.

Or, you can wait until Nov. 6 and go to the polls. To find your polling place, which might have changed since your last trip, go to car.elpasoco.com/Election/Pages/2012Elections.aspx.

If you think you should get a mail ballot but haven't, you can request one at the CSC, Chapel Hills office or at Centennial Hall, 200 S. Cascade Ave. Because there have been six all-mail elections in the past four years, some voters might erroneously think they're automatically on the permanent mail-ballot list.

"We've been talking about it and trying to be proactive about that," Deputy Clerk and Recorder Alissa Vander Veen says. "We sent three different kinds of voter information cards." Your card will indicate whether you're on the permanent list. — PZ

Urban Renewal report done

The city has completed its eight-month investigation of the Colorado Springs Urban Renewal Authority, and its report makes a series of recommendations that would bring the independent group into the city fold.

Established in 1970, the Authority helps fund and finance projects in blighted areas. While its nine-member board is appointed by the mayor and approved by City Councilors, it is governed by Colorado statute and does not answer to the city on budget matters. Still, it cooperated with the city's investigation, which Mayor Steve Bach called for after several run-ins with board members.

The city report found defaulted bonds — more than were previously known of, though not enough to risk overall URA or city default — for the University Village shopping center project, and disorganization in regard to fees for the Ivywild School project.

But perhaps most telling were suggested "areas where the City and URA can work together to improve the efforts of URA, to use resources more efficiently, and to promote coordinated, effective, and successful urban development in our community," as Bach put it in a release.

Included in those recommendations: The URA should use free space in the City Administration Building; city staff should perform work for the URA; and the URA and the city should have combined long-term development plans.

The city did not immediately respond to requests for the cost of the investigation, but it did hire outside help from Hogan Lovells, a firm often used by City Attorney Chris Melcher, to do the work. — JAS

Wind power for sale

Colorado Springs Utilities, which earlier this year was denied Council's go-ahead on purchasing 50 megawatts of wind power, is now offering a 13-megawatt wind program with partnering organization Xcel Energy.

Deb Mathis, Utilities program manager, calls it a "compromise" to accommodate those who wish to support green energy without "putting the burden" of rate hikes on everyone. "If you can show City Council that the community wants more renewables," she says, "then they'd be more apt to agree to something like that in the future."

Utilities seeks business owners and residents willing to buy 100-kilowatt-hour blocks at $1.24 each to offset some or all of their coal energy usage. (To be clear: You pay your full monthly bill, then an additional charge for the wind offset, with cancellation available at any time.) Delivering and billing is scheduled to begin in January.

Call 448-4800 for an assessment of your current coal-powered usage and to reserve wind blocks; the program is thus far 50 percent funded, with some 43,000 blocks remaining to be spoken for. — MS

43 apply for Memorial spot

The city has received 43 applications from people wanting to serve on the volunteer Memorial Hospital board. The mayor will submit seven names to the City Council for confirmation, while the board's other four members will be chosen by Memorial's lessee, University of Colorado Health.

The city Human Resources department is reviewing the applications and will interview finalists based on required qualifications, including financial background, knowledge of health care management, understanding of community issues and familiarity with nonprofit organizations.

A new board, which will oversee the local executive team and work with UCH on policies, is expected to be in place by Dec. 1. — PZ

Locals extol D.C. trip

You might think that sending 38 business and government leaders to Washington, D.C. during a congressional recess would be bad timing. But don't tell that to the local contingent, organized by the Colorado Springs Regional Business Alliance, which went to D.C. from Oct. 1 through 3 and gushed about the trip at a media session last Thursday.

Though they didn't meet with Colorado's lawmakers, delegation members had more than 50 sessions with congressional staff members as well as military and governmental officials, addressing issues ranging from how sequestration might affect military installations to federal help in Waldo Canyon Fire recovery. Subsequent action plans include the alliance being more proactive at the state and federal levels regarding transportation issues, exploring potential for cyber security in various partnerships, and developing plans for a more ambitious local sports economy.

The group's meetings were arranged by Mehlman Vogel Castagnetti, a lobbying firm that represents the area's interests in Washington. "I can't imagine not having someone on the ground, working the issues year-round and building relationships with our congressional delegation," said Stephannie Finley, executive director for advocacy and partnerships at the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs. — RR

Republicans in trouble

Another complaint has been filed against the embattled Cheyenne Mountain Republican Forum.

The political committee got into hot water last month thanks to a complaint filed with the secretary of state by the Denver-based Colorado Ethics Watch. Essentially, says Ethics Watch director Luis Toro, his organization was frustrated that the political committee had failed to file the appropriate disclosures, detailing its expenses and contributions, in connection with a June fundraiser starring conservative bulwark Michelle Malkin.

Ethics Watch dropped its complaint last week, after the Republican forum filed the proper disclosures. But now Erik Groves, a Grand Junction-based attorney, has filed a new one.

Groves expands on Ethics Watch's complaint, arguing that the forum violated state law by failing to register as a political committee, failing to file proper disclosures in a timely fashion, failing to gather the occupation and employer's name of certain donors, and accepting contributions from candidate committees.

Kay Rendleman, the forum's president, could not be reached for comment. — CH

Votes from legislatures past

Congressman Doug Lamborn stands behind his controversial vote in the Colorado state House.

The bill, which would have banned female genital mutilation, took a couple of attempts to make its way into law, and Lamborn, then a House representative, voted against it. One year, he was the only House member who did.

Lamborn held then, according to media reports, that the bill was unnecessary and duplicative of already existing child-abuse laws.

Today, says his spokeswoman, Catherine Mortensen, "Congressman Lamborn still believes that we do not need more laws on the books when the ones we have now are perfectly fine."

The campaign for Dave Anderson, the independent running against Lamborn in the District 5 congressional race, has been trying to make hay of the vote. — CH

Compiled by Chet Hardin, Ralph Routon, Matthew Schniper, J. Adrian Stanley and Pam Zubeck. For more briefs, see csindy.com.

Compiled by Matthew Schniper, J. Adrian Stanley and Pam Zubeck.

  • Early voting, the Urban Renewal Authority, wind power for your home and business, and more

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